Dear Honourable Mr. Slumber Tsogwane
I hope this open letter finds you in great health amidst the novel Covid-19 Pandemic.
I write to you as a citizen of the Republic of Botswana and as a student at the institution that lies under your care, the University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN). When I took the initiative to enroll with this institution, it was with high hopes that one day I and other students would graduate and have a bright future through putting our competencies for the development of the agricultural sector towards reaching the goal of Vision 2016 and now 2036 (Sustainable Economic Development, Human and Social Development, Sustainable Environment, Governance, Peace and Security). I thought I would have my turn to contribute to reaching food security and food self-sufficiency, again at any level. This was the academic institution I had fallen in love with before I knew any other option and by God’s grace I was admitted.
However, the university now houses disgruntled students. We are now running under a dictatorship and our value as clients of this university is being undermined, if not ignored, especially when we have grievances. It is also unfortunate that we only receive the time of day when and only when students have to boycott classes or hold peaceful demonstrations. That is sad and worrying because such a relationship is toxic and is the greatest hindrance to progress for students, management and the nation at large. I, however, pray that under your guidance we will receive better aid. It is through the following reasons that I hope, on behalf of the students of BUAN, you will come to the university and listen to our grievances as our chancellor.
1. The world is undergoing a pandemic and I would have hoped to receive some form of plan from your office. However, you have been silent because we understand the country needed you. But at some point when things cooled off, like now before exams, some form of communication with the students could have been made.
2. As the entire country is aware that the pandemic has negatively affected our studies and the academic calendar, we find ourselves disadvantaged but management has told the SRC that we are not and therefore we do not deserve an academic assessment of 40% pass mark and no exams instead use of CA used by other institutions such as the University of Botswana.
3. The method for the survey in which students were to choose whether to write exams or to use the CA also was haphazard and in no way, shape or form appropriate to gather information on a critical issue such as exams. I say this because it was conducted on the SRC group within which there are over 6000+ members and voting could easily have also been done by post-graduates, thus negatively impacting the desires of the students (undergraduates).
4. Another issue is that management did not see it fit to award the students a reading week. This is a period of a week within which classes, tests, assignments and all other methods of assessment are to be over and for students to spend that week studying for exams, instead of tests and all the aforementioned that robbed students of the time to fully prepare for examinations. It was extremely unjustified and detrimental for students to write exams without having their reading week.
5. The students had requested that we be awarded an equal opportunity with other universities of a pass mark of 40%. That request was denied on the basis that we are not affected by Covid-19. Students also requested that, at the very least, they be allowed to choose to either write exams and have the final grade computed using exam mark and the CA or have their final mark obtained from the CA. Management rejected this proposal and exams were written beginning 23rd of June.
Due to the current lockdown, management now returns with the very same alternatives students had requested because the management is now desperate for a solution. It is extremely unfair to adopt such options after some have written their exams. I therefore request that the proposed options be applicable to all examinations, written and pending, alongside the 40% pass mark. To this message, I have attached the proposed solutions by Vice Chancellor Jasper Reece. As far as conducting the exams goes, the student body should be allowed as individuals to select a proposed option that is suitable for individuals based on their performance, alongside the 40% pass mark.
6. The students would like to hear from their Chancellor directly regarding the future of BUAN students as postgraduates.
7. The university is facing an accommodation crisis that is going to affect off-campus students, who are is an exceedingly large number of students, enrolling with the university for the next semester. This year a different system of allocating accommodation is being used and we now have on-campus students having to find accommodation within two weeks. How that will happen no one knows. Students will need time to house-hunt and buy necessary materials such as stoves, furniture, study tables, food and cookers. Already COVID-19 is restricting movement, making it difficult for students to find vacant rental units.
8. Off-campus students need to be assured of amicable solutions for next semester and semesters to come until the country returns to normal. This point refers to transport issues that the country is currently facing. Students are going to have problems with transport, thus with attending classes, tests and sitting exams on time.
9. University clubs and associations need much more attention from the university and need to grow at a faster rate than they are currently. These bodies are in place to help the students through their stay at the university and also when they are postgraduates. Unfortunately, the clubs and associations are broke and cannot impact student lives as intended.
I speak for a large majority of students of BUAN that what they are currently being put through is not fair. I pray and hope that you will agree to meet or at least send an email or any form of communication with the students of BUAN before the end of the semester or before commencement of the next semester in August in order to put our minds at ease. Once we have received feedback on the date on which you will be coming to see us, we shall appoint student leaders, such as the SRC and other club and association leaders, to meet with you as representatives of all students. This will aid compliance with Covid-19 rules and regulations.
I have requested the SRC to help me reach out to you, Mr Chancellor. However, they remain reluctant to approach you. I sometimes think it is because of the endorsement you offered one of the students’ factions during the SRC campaigns for the year 2020/21 or because the president of BUAN’s SRC is an active affiliate of the BDP. Whatever the reason, I am not sure and will avoid pointing fingers. What is important for me is that BUAN students receive your attention and help.
I wish you well as you continue to fight to restore the country and its people to normalcy of Botswana before Covid-19.
Mr. Koketso Bond Tlhagale
President of BUAN Off-campus Association